Yoga as a Tool to say 'Yes' to Life
Written by Amanda Whittal.
A habit is something you can do without thinking - which is why most of us have so many of them.
Frank A. Clark
How often have you paid some attention to your typical habits and behaviours? If you already practice yoga, you are no doubt more aware than many people of the physical sensations in your body, or the preponderances of your mind.
What style of yoga do you practice? What type of lifestyle do you choose to live? What are your religious and political views? Where is this going?
We have an innate affinity for favouring certain things over others, for believing certain ways and paths are better than others. Of course, to some extent, this is both necessary and valuable. There is, however, another side to it, which involves remembering that in many cases, everything has a place, regardless of our individual sentiments.
I have practiced yoga for nearly 10 years. I've tried many different styles, studied with many different teachers. Additionally, I have explored and worked in both sides of the field of health: the conventional and scientific, and the unconventional and intuitive. I have come to understand that both of these areas, and all of the styles of yoga, have something different and valuable to offer.
How does this apply to yoga? I suggest it as a way to deepen your practice.
Consider the notion of surrender to what is, known in yoga context as Ishvar-Pranidhana. One could write many novels delving into this concept. The aspect of it that I would like to turn your attention to is acceptance. Your yoga practice is an opportunity to use asana, breathing and meditation to become more aware of the sensations and rhythm of life: the physical response of your body to certain poses, the activity of your mind on a given day, the state of your emotions. Your practice is opening yourself up to all of these experiences, without judging them. It is to see them with the wisdom to go beyond the limited judgments that our mind wants to hold, and instead see the larger picture, as it is.
Whether you are new to yoga or a seasoned practitioner, consider experimenting with the following:
Choose a pose that you find particularly difficult. Practice with that pose. Spend an extended period of time working with it. Observe the responses of your body. Notice the reactions of your mind. Become aware of the state of your emotions. Focus on these sensations that arise in response to the pose, from a place of 'compassionate awareness'. That is, do not label any of them as positive or negative; simply acknowledge them with acceptance, as they are. Practice this regularly.
Developing such awareness will extend beyond the yoga mat, and begin to infiltrate into your daily life. It does not necessarily mean that you will suddenly enjoy every situation and all circumstances. What it does mean is that you will cultivate the ability to see and derive the value existing in ALL experiences. Each incident in our lives presents us with the opportunity to grow, evolve, step more fully into the people we are becoming. Joyous moments infuse us with life energy; difficult ones can build inner strength and understanding; tragedies deepen our perspective.
This knowledge is perhaps something you already have, in some form. The intention of looking at it from a yogic angle is to provide a new tool to develop the ability within you. It is true that knowledge is distinct from practice. To know something is one thing, to embody it is quite another. Using the physical practice of yoga to train yourself in viewing the world this way provides a starting point, to learn to live with such compassionate awareness in your everyday life.
By making the conscious choice to be open to all experiences, you say yes to life, and allow yourself to take in the full richness that it has to offer.
I wish you a full, enriched life.
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